The first South Similkameen Museum building was originally a BC Provincial Police office and jail located in Keremeos Center, which was approximately three kilometres north of the present village.
Two men named Irwin and Day built it in 1907. There is a note in the 25th of July, 1907 issue of the Hedley Gazette stating that “the work on the lockup and Constables office was rushed last week, even respect for the Sabbath rest did not interfere with it. Why such haste by Irwin and Day to provide goal accommodation?”
The jail had three cells, one of which was used to store court records. The front part of the building was the Police office, which doubled as the Law Court when required. The Hedley Gazette reports that “the first to occupy a jail cell was Lamb – not the innocent, but one full of booze.”
The construction of the lockup part of the building – both the outer and cell walls were of 2 by 6 inch lumber laid flat and nailed together. The floor was also of the same type of lumber but the boards were laid on edge to form a 6 inch thick floor. The ceiling was of 2 by 4 inch lumber laid on edge. The office part of the building is of conventional construction, with wall studs and sheathing, floor joists and flooring.
There were no washroom facilities in the building and a wood stove provided heat in the cold weather – the floor shows marks made by splitting wood for the fire. If there was a prisoner in the jail, the Constable had to remain on 24-hour duty because of the danger of fire.
The building was moved to its present site in 1917 using horses as motive power.
The BC Provincial Police used this building until they became the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in 1950. The RCMP continued to use the site until their new building at the top of the hill was completed on the 2nd January 1959.
The building was unused from 1959 until 1962. It was then used as the Village of Keremeos office until 1970 when the office was moved to the basement of the Victory Hall. In 1972 the South Similkameen Museum Society leased the building from the Provincial Government for use as a museum. It was eventually discovered that the Provincial Government did not own the building or if it had, the records of the purchase were lost.
The Village of Keremeos purchased the property for back taxes in 1991 and the Museum Society negotiated a lease agreement with the Village of Keremeos in 1993 to operate the Museum. The museum building was designated as a heritage building in 1991.
The major amount of the museum inventory was collected between 1973 and 1975. The official opening of the museum was held on the 7th of October 1973. Mr. W.B. Stewart, the oldest living BC Policeman had the honour of cutting the ribbon. Constable Stewart served in Keremeos from 1934 to 1945.
Historical Dates of Interest of
The Lower Similkameen
1813 – Alexander Ross, earliest known white man explored the Similkameen for the Northwest Fur Company.
1846 – Agreement of Boundary Line between U.S.A. and Canada.
1860 – 1872 – Hudson Bay Co. Present in area, in 1865 it moved from Cawston to Keremeos.
1861 – Dewdney Trail was completed. 1865 Richter and Barcelo settled in the area.
1877 – Grist Mill constructed by Barrington Price.
1880 – Richter planted the first fruit trees in the valley.
1883 – Small Pox epidemic.
1886 – Indian Reserves were formed.
1887 – First Post Office, operated at the Tom Daly ranch.
1892 – First School built on Dan McCurdy’s property (Log Cabin)
1894 – Flood and the last Potlatch in the area.
1899 – Typhoid Epidemic
1902 – Mr. Welby started stage line from Penticton to Hedley.
1903 – Post Office opened at the Clark Place on Green Mtn. Rd.
1905 – First permanent Constable, Maximilian Et Une Ewart.
1906 – Keremeos Land Company formed.
1907 – July 10th, first train (Great Northern) arrived in Keremeos.
1907 – Mid July, Jail Cell built in Keremeos Center, at top of town hill.
1908 – School built on bench, where present Elementary school is situated.
1916 – Cawston was officially named (after R.L. Cawston).
1917 – Jail Cell moved, drawn by horses, down the hill to 6th Ave.
1919 – Famous Cattle Rustling Trail – Jenson Bros.
1920 – First Telephone office in Keremeos.
1926 – First Delco Plant was installed by Len Marsden.
1931 – Present road from Keremeos to Penticton was completed.
1948 – Flood. Hope-Princeton Highway completed.
1950 – Benchland opened up as a soldier’s Settlement (V.L.A.).
1951 – High School was completed.
1952 – Packing House burned down.
1956 – Keremeos became incorporated.
1965 – Richter Pass was opened.
1967 – Packing House burned down, again.
1972 – Flood.
1973 – Opening of the Keremeos Museum.
1975 – Diagnostic Center built.
1976 – Mountain View Manor built.
1986 – Senior Citizen Drop-in Center built.